Monthly Archives: September 2013

Celtic Fest: Bethlehem PA. The Big E – Local Southern NH fairs

Late summer and let the fairs begin; as a child I remember going to any and all local fairs with my family.  Cheshire, Hopkinton, New Boston, Deerfield and the mother of all fairs the Big E – Eastern States Fair.  I have very fond memories of going to all of these, actually looking forward to going and making sure I knew what days the fairs were happening, checking out what the main event was and making plans with friends to attend those days.  My favorite event was definitely the demolition derby. I am sure, actually positive I am not alone in this, derby day always drew the largest crowds.  I learned a very valuable lesson; that I stand by till this very day.  While I am not necessarily afraid of heights per say, I having no problem climbing up on things, in things etc.;  I DO NOT like climbing back down.  Being kind of a punk teenager; I was at the Cheshire fair on derby day, there were no seats to be had, standing room would be fine but I am only 5’4” tall, a friend at the time had a GREAT idea.  Let’s climb the pine tree and watch from up there.  First off you know full well you are not going to be able to stay in the tree, security is bound to kick you out.  Secondly it’s a pine tree, actually I learned a couple of things that day.  I am not a fan of pine trees; pine pitch is the worst, I don’t mind them in the woods, love the smell of them; hate them anywhere near the house and or driveway.  Back to my not being able to climb down; I was stuck; scared shitless; probably one of my first anxiety attacks that I can remember.  Thankfully no emergency personnel had to come, but it took a team of people to help me get down.  Never again!!!

Since this is a foodie blog and there is so many choices of things to eat at fairs; I love the smell of the sausages but to me they never taste as good as they smell.  Fried dough is heavenly and I will forgo everything else just to have a fresh buttered cinnamon and powdered sugar fried piece of dough.  It is amazing to me that as I have gotten older I choose carefully what I eat.  As a kid one of everything please, food was to consume only.  Now I know what I like and don’t and what I should and should not eat, not that I always listen to this. Hence the fried dough!

I cannot go any further without talking about the Big E – now that’s a fair!!!!  My brother passed away way too soon a few years ago. I am so glad that the 3 of us siblings wanted to take our kids and our dad to the Big E.  It was a beautiful late September day; we went during the week, less crowds.  We got to share with the kids how we do the Big E.  We first walk through all the vendors; check out the “infomercial” building; at least that is what we call it.  Check out all the animals, damn those Clydesdales are HUGE.  But the best part of the fair is eating our way through the state buildings.  I am telling you the loaded baked potato from the Maine building is FREAKIN AMAZING!!!!  If you do nothing else Go – Buy – Eat – No sharing please!

We are visiting a very good friend of ours new home in PA this weekend.  I am actually sitting in her living room right now writing this.  There is a Celtic festival nearby so we all (of us) jumped in the SUV and went yesterday.  It was gorgeous day out, though we had a couple of Irish peeps with us, we were ALL Irish on Saturday; or at least we drank and ate like an Irishman.  We walked and walked, we drank beer, very cold beer which was excellent.  Since it was a Celtic Fest the fare was typical Irish food, bratwurst, corned beef, shepherd’s pie etc.  I did see the largest cans of sauerkraut I have ever seen.  After contemplating what we were going to eat while walking by all the food vendors, stopping for a corn on the cob that was covered with some spice rub that had chili powder in it and it was excellent!  Another highlight was their Potato Chip Twister.  Fried to perfection!  Sad to say but we had 3 or them.  The music was great, my bratwurst was awesome and did I mention the beer was cold YUM!!!!

My Shepherd’s Pie Recipe – I know so simple but it is comfort food for me!

Brown some ground beef – remove all the grease, I also dice up (very small) and sauté some onions. I season the beef very well with salt, pepper, garlic and adobo (my favorite go to spice) I use a can of creamed corn and also a can of niblets.  I top with yummy mashed potatoes and then some grated cheddar cheese.  Very simple but OH so yummy! I will be making this sometime this week!!!!

Fall Fare

Like most people; I can only assume; when the weather starts to cool off the urge to start up the oven definitely takes over.  It not only helps take the chill out of the house and makes the house smell yummy!  It saves you from starting the furnace sooner than you want to.  

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Photo above taken by: Steve Fernandes – I LOVE this photo!!!

Before we built the home we live in today, we lived in a much smaller home where the only form of heat we used was a wood stove.  That makes for VERY chilly mornings and even chillier evenings when we got home from work; at least until you got the stove going.  I think that is where my love of cooking started especially when the air changes. I would cook anything that would keep the oven going for a few hours; just to get the house as warm as I wanted.  Sometimes it would get so hot we always ended up opening a window.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner was definitely worth 2 or 3 windows AND the front door. I am not complaining I really liked my little home. 

Since living in New England my entire life we have always had a wood stove; fireplaces are pretty but very inefficient.  When we started the new house I was MOST concerned we wouldn’t be having a wood stove or fireplace.  What no wood to cut, split, stack and clean up after. I did have many sleepless nights and brought up the subject quite often.  Well I am converted now, the whole house is radiant floor heat by propane and I would NEVER go back willingly to wood.  There are no cold spots in the house, no cold floors, no cold anything; the whole house is the same temperature.  We do keep the bedrooms colder than anywhere else and the ceramic tile in the bathrooms are AWESOME!!!  But my love for cooking was born out of wanting to be warm!   

Today being the first full day of Fall and boy can I tell; Not only are the leaves turning and dropping; I swear the color of the trees in the swamp just up the road from my house are almost at peak. I have already cooked a Roaster Chicken, a Ribeye Roast, made chicken stock for the freezer, took all the tomatoes that I haven’t done anything with from the garden and braised some Chicken thighs with them plus even more just this week.  I haven’t done anymore baking since all the zucchini & banana bread that I made a couple of weeks ago. BUT I did just make a Sam’s Club run today and bought some flour and sugar.  I must also take a trip to the local orchard up on Norway Hill to pick some yummy macintosh apples.  I can almost smell the apple pie and crisp cooking.

Tonight we are having Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops with apples for dinner and I might just have to make some chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  A couple of years ago my husband and I had a “who can make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie challenge”.  Not a great thing to do if you are watching your weight.  It probably took us a month of both of us making cookies every week; it might have been even longer, I honestly can’t remember.  While his cookies LOOKED better than mine, I won the taste portion – Though I can’t remember how long it took us I do remember who won; funny thing is he seems to think he won.

Bad picture but awesome cookie!

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Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – How I make them!!!

2 Cups flour plus 2 Tbs All Purpose flour

½ Tsp Baking Soda

½ Tsp Salt

5 Tbs unsalted butter – room temperature

5 Tbs Margarine – room temperature

1 Cup brown sugar

½ C Sugar

1 large egg Plus 1 egg yolk

2 Tsp Vanilla

1 Cup more or less semisweet chocolate chips

 These make about 18 large cookies – Bake at 325’ for about 15 to 18 minutes

Large cookies – take about ¼ cup of the dough into a ball, split the ball in half and take the jagged edges of the dough and place them side by side sticking them together with the jagged edges facing up; place on either a parchment covered cookie sheet or spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Do not overcook but cool them on the sheet, once cooked remove using a metal spatula.  

Rich watching his cookies so they come out perfect!

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Viking Stove – Bedazzled

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Before

During

During – My adorable husband

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After

Everything needs a little freshening up after a decade of hard work; we have been in our home that we built for 10 years now.  Thankfully it was built by a very detail oriented hardworking perfectionist; my husband; so the quality of material and attention to details that we put into our home has stood the test of time.  I lovingly say that the home was built with his sweat, our blood (I helped where I could) and my tears!  We personally freshen up by vacationing in the Caribbean if not every year definitely every other year.

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Over time homes need a new coat of paint, maybe some re-arranging or updating.  A few rooms recently received a fresh coat of paint; I am in the process of re-designing my daughter’s room from what she picked out when she was 12 to an adult bedroom. Here is a small glimpse of what I have done so far a long way to go but it’s a start.

My Viking stove which I can safely say with good authority has done probably the most work in our home without a lot of attention; other than regualr cleaning I did just have to replace the igniter’s in both ovens; but so far that is it.  I first fell in love with my stove when I saw it in a magazine over 20 years ago. I ripped it out of the magazine and started a file folder of must haves.  Another idea I saw in a magazine 10 years while we were designing/building. Unfortunately I didnt rip it out which I kick myself for; it took me 10 years to get it built but it was totally worth the wait.  If you look at the above photo of my daughters room the bookcase is actually a doorway to a fairly large storage area.  I LOVE it my husband did an awesome job.

When we decided to build; it was actually always the plan when we bought our first home; it just took a lot longer than, at least I anticipated.  I had 2 stipulations to building.  We build a kitchen around my stove and we don’t end up in divorce court. My words verbatim “if I can’t have my stove, I don’t want the house” I fought long and hard and I can honestly share with you; it could have gone either way on both counts!

For those of you who have built their own homes and had a “budget” I use that term loosely; I have yet to meet ANYONE who has come in on or below their “budget” When it comes time to purchase appliances; there is not a lot of money left.  My husband begged me to not buy the Viking, he tried everything in his power to back out of this stipulation, offering to buy me two stoves and put then next to each other; leaving space for it to come later.  I being so damn stubborn put my foot down; needless to say he will concede today that it was a great decision.

While sitting here writing about my Viking it reminds me of the character that was in love with his typewriter played by Greg Kinnear in You’ve Got Mail LOL – I have issues.

Most people when they come over LOVE my kitchen area and of course my Viking; I have had a few people ask if I actually cook like that; trust me I do!  Just this weekend our good friends who spent the weekend with us asked if I used all 6 burners. Yes I do!  A lot of people want to cook on my stove; come on over – since starting my cooking class; many people have now cooked on my Viking.

Probably my most often cooked and family favorite meal is a Roaster Chicken with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, frozen peas, butternut squash and pan gravy!  My mouth is watering right now!  Here is how I prepare most all of my birds for the oven.

I use kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and Adobo inside and out – liberally!  I never stuff any of my birds; Turkey or Chicken with dressing.  I always use onions and apples sliced up and placed inside the carcass.  It makes for awesome tasting gravy.  I also take the water from the veggies I cooked and add it to the pan drippings to help make the gravy – I swear by it!

Baking Breads & Pickling

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Yesterday I spent the day baking and pickling!  While I would love to tell you everything was from my very own gardens; we did not have a very successful harvest this year.  We have decided to remove the majority of the soil from our raised beds and start over; it may sound pretty drastic; but I spend too much time & money on the beds for them not to provide me a little something to help feed my family and friends.

I was able to use up my own cucumbers to make a dozen jars of Kosher dill pickles – we mostly use them for sandwich’s & burgers.  I would like to thank a couple of my husbands employees for their Zucchini and Green beans; which I made 36 various size loafs of zucchini bread and was able to make a couple of jars of dilly beans for the very first time.  I buy Banana’s every week at my house so I always have those on hand; they do not always get eaten in time so I will put the brown banana’s in the fridge, If i cannot get to them fairly soon I throw them in the freezer until I am able to make Banana Bread.  Because my son does not like nuts there are always 2 loaves made.  I think he does that so he gets his own loaf; just saying!

Several years ago a friend of mine; who is a trained chef; gave me her mom’s zucchini bread recipe.  The last few years I have tried to cut out some of the oil to make it slightly less fattening; apples sauce works out quite nicely.  I have also never made just one batch, when I make zucchini bread I make 4 batches at a time and usually times this by 2.  It freezes VERY well!  This year i made a total of 7 batches with what I had on hand; well actually not on hand, I took inventory Friday night of what I had planned on making and made a listing of what I needed to pick up.  I think I should invest some time and effort into raising chickens for all the eggs we go through – Ya I don’t see that happening anytime soon; I have a crazy dog who would put a kabash (sp?) on that, plus I am not shoveling ANY chicken shit…

While I was out getting my supplies on Saturday morning I ran into the cutest little old lady, we were standing there looking at the canning items left; note to self get your stuff together when they first arrive in the stores.  We started up a conversation about them not having what either of us needed.  Why I thought she was cute was her comment “I think there are a lot of new people thinking they can pickle” I immediately told her I have been doing this for years, I was even chuckling to myself thinking why did I need to defend myself for being in that aisle. I have pickled cucumbers, salsa, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce over the years. I do enjoy the pickles the most. I gave away all my spaghetti sauce, we didn’t like the taste, my in-laws loved it. The garden salsa was very good, however there is nothing like fresh garden salsa. I had never had nor heard of dilly beans; probably because I am not a fan on green beans so I have never grown them, so I didn’t ever need to find out what to do with them. I am not too sure they turned out, only because they do not look like the ones I have tried. we’ll see in a couple of weeks.

Zucchini Bread – recipe bake 350′ – timing depends on what size pan you use
2 eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C apple sauce
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
Mix all the above together well
add the below
1 pkg vanilla pudding
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 C flour
2 C shredded zucchini

Labor Day Weekend – Two states, Two families, Two days.

For the last 4 Labor day weekends Rich and I have gotten up very early on Saturday to drive to West Warwick, RI for a weekend full of Golf, Food, Parades and a lot of Laughs with our adopted Portuguese families.

You know how you have friends, you also will have some lifelong friends; ones you can just pick up where you left off and no one is upset that you haven’t been in touch in a month or so.  Then you have friends that are more like family. Our buddy Steve and his wife Barney are part of a very large extended Portuguese family; and they have all adopted Rich and I; at least over Labor Day Weekend.

The family home is a duplex comprised of a brother and sister growing up in the same house since they were very young and later in life splitting the house in two.  The brother and his family grew up on one side and the sister and her family on the other.  They have lived like this for close to 60 years if not longer.  There are cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors; generation after generation that stop by; probably around 60 to 80 people stop by on Sunday throughout the day. I love how they all greet each other; everyone and I mean everyone gets a kiss on the cheek and a hug. They do this when you arrive and when you leave.

Saturday we play in the Golf tournament which is in Memoriam of Steve’s sister-in-law that passed away 10 years ago.  This is followed up by a steak or chicken dinner & raffle at a local Portuguese Club – similar to our VFW’s.  They tap the keg Saturday night; and to make sure that it is working properly; of course we have to test it. Sunday morning is set up day – tents, chairs, flags, crock pots and coolers.  Rich took over the job of hanging the American and Portuguese flags on the front of the house; this is where we watch the parade from and take the “family” group picture.  I help wherever I can and also sometimes help “shake” the crock pots; must be a family term.  I will be booking our hotel for next year soon before they all fill up.

Portuguese food is something of a mystery to me. They tend to cook their food for a very long time. I peck at Steve all the time when we eat at each other’s places. We have come to an understanding; I like my steak medium rare and let’s just say he doesn’t.  They make Cacoila (pronounced Caserla); and Chourico several different ways. They have a white pizza, a red pizza and a potato dish with Chourico and onions.  Most are passed around by the Matriarch’s of the families the two Irene’s, or whoever they enlist to do the task.  I lovingly refer to them all as the food pushers.  They crack me up with Donna do you want a Caserla; which I do like but you can only eat so many of them, they walk by with Chourico which they have made into little pigs in a blanket. Not the usual BBQ fare that I am used to; you never walk out of there hungry!

This year we had to rush back on Sunday for a BBQ at my Uncles house.  His 3 brothers were in town. One lives close by (my Dad) one from CA and the other from FL.  It has been 20 years since they have all been together in the same spot; that is very sad to me. Everyone is getting a little older and traveling a little less; but I hope we can make it happen again soon!

We arrived at the BBQ late; we did make sure to tell them that we had a prior engagement in RI. When we did arrive I was happy to see many cousins and their children albeit just before they left; but it was still very nice to see them for a minute for a quick catch up chat.

With the few that stuck around we spent the last hour or so sharing some funny stories; some were cooking gone wrong stories I wanted to share.  I am sure these have not only happened in my family. My husband was making gravy once; I am not sure where I was but he called me to ask how to make it. I told him how to make it using flour; he kept adding more and more and it just wouldn’t thicken – ummm it wasn’t flour; he grabbed the confectioners’ sugar – no gravy in the house that night.  At least he tried!  One also shared her oopsie moments – she had 2 very similar ones with very different results. Adding flour by mistake to peanut butter fudge; my uncle kept telling her that she had to have forgotten the sugar, fudge was supposed to be sweet; they threw that away. The other she added confectioners’ sugar to a chocolaty treat that should have been flour; she was going to a function and didn’t have time to remake so took it with her; the funny part is when people were asking her for the recipe.  She said she gave them the correct recipe – I wonder if they still liked them…

Because I knew we were going to be late I actually had the pleasure of hosting the 4 brothers and 2 of their wives for dinner Thursday night.  We had a wonderful evening filled with good food, lots of laughs and a lot of love as someone proclaimed. I will treasure that night forever!